Every year, a guy in the Kansas City suburbs publishes a list that points out St. Louis as one of the most dangerous cities in the country. He isn’t an FBI agent, a former police chief, or a criminologist. He’s just a publisher with a good gimmick, a readable press release, and some questionable methodology.
St. Louis is not a dangerous city. There are certainly some high-crime neighborhoods — just like in every city. But, the vast majority of St. Louis neighborhoods are safe places to live, work, and raise families.
There are plenty of other cities in the country with the same amount of crime within a similar area. Every city has high-crime neighborhoods. But, unlike most other cities, St. Louis is locked into the 19th century borders that separate us on the charts (but not in any real sense) from places like Clayton, Webster Groves, Maplewood, University City, and Shrewsbury. If these nearby communities were added to the City, we’d be one of the safest cities in the country — with no change in the patterns of local crime.
But, putting a thoughtlessly designed list into perspective isn’t my final word. Crime is up in some City neighborhoods and that does require a response. While most City neighborhoods are safe, a few are not.
Although the deployment of the police force is not in local control, I have found Chief Joe Mokwa to be responsive to our concerns. City voters recently approved an increase in the graduated business license fees that will help pay for more police officers on the Most Dangerous Offenders unit. The same revenue will also create a Career Criminal unit in Circuit Attorney Jennifer Joyce’s office to beef up her ability to prosecute repeat- and multiple-offenders; and it will expand the problem property and nuisance crime strike force. In addition, new state and federal grants we sought and received are aimed at reducing the number of paroled criminals who return to lives of crime.
City voters will soon have a new chance to help reduce crime. Passage of Proposition P on Tuesday, November 7, will create new recreation programs and facilities, giving kids alternatives to getting into trouble. Along with safe schools that prepare kids for productive lives as citizens, these recreation opportunities are really among the most important anti-crime investments we can make.